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Math Science Games Politics

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita Uses Games To See the Future 134

Posted by timothy
from the shall-we-play-a-game dept.
parallel_prankster writes "Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a professor of politics at New York University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. In his new book, The Predictioneer (The Predictioneer's Game in the US), he describes a computer model based on game theory which he — and others — claim can predict the future with remarkable accuracy. The website also has a game page where he provides an online version of the game and information on how to play." The (semi-paywalled; may need to register) New Scientist has a story on de Mesquita, too; a snippet: "Over the past 30 years, Bueno de Mesquita has made thousands of predictions about hundreds of issues from geopolitics to personal problems. Overall, he claims, his hit rate is about 90 per cent."
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Bruce Bueno de Mesquita Uses Games To See the Future

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  • by red_blue_yellow (1353825) on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:12AM (#31533390)

    From TFA:

    How is such accuracy possible? What Bueno de Mesquita is not doing is predicting random events such as lottery draws. Nor does he claim to be able to forecast the movement of stock markets, the outcome of general elections or the onset of financial crises - events where millions of people have a small influence, but none is able to move the market on their own.

    Rather, he confines himself to "strategic situations" where relatively small numbers of people are haggling over a contentious decision. "I can predict events and decisions that involve negotiation or coercion, cooperation or bullying," he says. That includes domestic politics, foreign policy, conflicts, business decisions and social interactions.

    Now, that's not to say that he couldn't make money using the predictions, but maybe he's actually more interested in the science/mathematics side of it than the business potential?

  • Re:90% Accuracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:24AM (#31533454) Homepage Journal

    >>Is that independent enough for you?

    Then that should have been posted in the summary instead. Whenever I read self-written claims of a model's accuracy, my bullshit meter goes off.

    In related news, Miss Cleo predicts ongoing instability in the Middle East, conflicts over water rights, and people being unhappy with those jokers in government.

  • Not "the Future" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:44AM (#31533536)
    He doesn't claim to be able to simply "predict the future." Accurate information is only given in situations where a limited number of people are making a decision, and where accurate information is available on them for input. The key is basically that it assumes that serious decisions are made primarily according to the players' own interests (a reasonable assumption). Given the limited problem set, it doesn't seem too unrealistic to believe that one could make a very simple, basic model with some level of accuracy. Even without elegant theories, if accurate inputs and outputs from past events were available, a statistical model could probably be generated automatically.

    I wonder if eventually every government will spend significant time consulting these machine-oracles? It reminds me of the various mathematical methods of prediction that still exist in China and India. Some of the Chinese models still require a significant amount of abacus shuffling, and a large set of reference books for all the possibilities. These were probably formed from similar basic methods of trying to gather data, compare it, and map inputs to outputs.
  • Re:Ahmadinejad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday March 19, 2010 @03:02AM (#31533574) Journal

    We all know how that ended.

    Well technically, he probably wasn't wrong on that point. It is quite possible, if not likely, that Ahmadinehad wasn't actually elected by the people of Iran but remained in power because the elections were rigged and didn't really matter anyway.

  • by koxkoxkox (879667) on Friday March 19, 2010 @03:28AM (#31533654)

    You can buy pretty much anything with money.

    I really don't want your life ...

  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:02AM (#31533748)
    I can believe a 90% hit rate. I can predict the future, and so can you, with 90% accuracy. See, if you don't claim to be able to predict EVERYTHING then you can easily "predict" obvious things.

    I predict that tomorrow someone will die in the world.
    I predict that tomorrow at least one person will spend $100 on a TV somewhere in the US.
    I predict that tomorrow the temperature will be higher than 32 deg F in California.

    Tomorrow look up these details and see how many I get right. I CAN PREDICT THE FUTURE!!

    This guy claims to be able to predict "only certain things" which really means he's predicting things obvious even if it's not obvious that they're obvious. For example, he claims to be able to predict foreign policy. Did he predict foreign policy, or did he just watch the news and make some predictions based off of what all the political analysts are saying?

    From TFA "These [predictions] include whether or not North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong II, would dismantle his nation's nuclear arsenal" How stupid do you have to be to believe that he "predicted" this? Everyone and their fucking aunt is watching the news, everyone is reporting on it, the government is doing fucking insane amounts of research and analysis as to what foreign leaders' views are regarding nuclear weapons. It's not that hard to make a guess as to what's going to happen when you have that much information available to you.
  • In my early investing career I asked in a forum, "if somebody has a money making strategy why would they not use it themselves?"

    Two answers:

    1) They don't have enough capitalization and are trying to attract money.
    2) Snakeoil...

    1 does happen, albeit not that often, but it does. 2 is the more common answer.

  • by fractoid (1076465) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:45AM (#31533858) Homepage
    Yeah. Like that 'rich dad poor dad' guy. He thinks he's a financial guru but what he really did was make a modest fortune by sniping mortgage foreclosure auctions (in essence, ripping off the struggling families who'd just lost their homes), and then when that stopped working, he switched tactics to making money by selling "how to make money" books and giving seminars.
  • by nido (102070) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <65odin>> on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:10AM (#31533950) Homepage

    The last few paragraphs of the fine article validate my post above. Here's a quote:

    So what of the future? Another of Bueno de Mesquita's recent predictions addresses the future of climate change negotiations up to 2050. Depressingly, he predicts that although the world will negotiate tougher greenhouse gas reductions than in the Kyoto protocol, in practise these are likely to be abandoned as Brazil, India and China rise in power in relation to the European Union and the US.

    One 'black swan' that Bueno de Mesquita's prediction dosen't take into account are technological developments which solve the energy problem.

    Suppose a backyard inventor develops a thermodynamics-compliant engine/transmission that gets 3x better fuel economy with 1/100 as many parts (conventional reciprocating piston engines have 1000's, this invention has 25 or so), and allows for mechanical storage of 95% of a stop's kinetic energy in a hydraulic pressure tank.

    Or what if there is a worldwide surge of volcanic activity in the 2030's, which makes human production of CO2 insignificant?

    I, for one, am Not impressed. 'tis time for me to go to bed - maybe I will have some prophetic dream tonight.

  • Re:The future (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Friday March 19, 2010 @06:14AM (#31534206) Journal
    "As for how to reduce emissions to avoid such property damage, this is less clear cut."

    Yes, in the long run the tradgedy of the commons is a more destructive failure of politics than war.
  • Yeah, it's like the turkey predicting that tomorrow it will go to sleep well fed. It will be wrong only once after all. Just before thankgiving. Not a bad score, right ?
  • by Jiro (131519) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:01AM (#31537800)

    First of all, there are so many things that money can buy that it's difficult to think of how someone who isn't a monk or equivalent wouldn't want some more. Does he have a mortgage? Children or grandchildren interested in going to Stanford? Even assuming his personal needs are met, enough money could, oh, endow a university and create a whole research center just to study his theories.

    But perhaps a more important reason is that using his theories to make money is hard to fudge. Making money would prove that he's right, and surely he's interested in proving he's right even if he's not really interested in the money--it would show that he's not just making easy predictions, or fudging the predictions to match the events, because that kind of thing can make the predictions look successful but won't get him any money.

"There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them" - Heisenberg

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